The Jehovah’s Witnesses Bible, The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, contains the Divine Name “Jehovah” in 237 places in the Christian Scriptures. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have several reasons for choosing these renderings . But is it justifiable for the Jehovah’s Witnesses to do so? Does this practice present any problems for our confidence in the reliability of the manuscript tradition?
In considering these questions, it appears as though Jehovah’s Witnesses care more about their “theology” than the reliability of our currently possessed manuscripts . While Christians should fully endorse the use of some form of the Divine Name in our translations of the Hebrew Scriptures (e.g. YHWH, Jehovah, Yahweh, etc.) , they should not endorse its use in the Christian Scriptures except for where it actually appears in our manuscripts (e.g. Revelation 19:1-4) .
Apparently, Jehovah’s Witnesses are free to alter history without a shred of historical evidence so long as long as their theology requires it. In other words, though we don’t have a single solitary manuscript of the Christian Greek Scriptures bearing the divine name (other than Revelation 19, etc.), we must maintain that it had to be in the originals. This turns textual criticism into silly putty.
It’s easy for the Jehovah’s Witnesses to get away with this. After all, they aren’t engaging the academia and they certainly aren’t debating the “Bart Ehrmans” of the world . If they were, these academics would latch on to this inconsistency and expose it.
The bottom line is this; if we can maintain that words can be removed from the manuscript tradition at least 237 times without a shadow of a trace, then what else could have been removed? This reasoning actually becomes very circular. Consider
- Our theology is determined by what our currently possessed manuscripts teach.
- The currently possessed manuscripts teach that certain words should appear in them (i.e. the Divine Name).
- These certain words (i.e. the Divine Name) do not appear in our currently possessed manuscripts.
- Therefore, we determine from our currently possessed manuscripts (which assumes their accuracy) what our currently possessed manuscripts should or should not say.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot have it both ways. The reliability of the manuscripts cannot be defended  while, at the same time, the unreliability of the manuscripts is being posited. It is both circular and defeating towards the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ view.
While Christians should react with enthusiasm when new manuscript discoveries are made , we should base our theology on what the best and earliest manuscript present to us .
- One of which include the “J documents,” which are Hebrew translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures. These were translated many centuries after the original inspired writings.
- There are several Bibles in addition to The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures that do exactly that.
- “Hallelujah” literally means, “praise Jah.” It is noteworthy that the scribes who supposedly removed the name in at least 237 places somehow missed Revelation 19.
- The Jehovah’s Witnesses have long avoided public interaction with Christian and Secular academics.
- The Jehovah’s Witnesses do, in fact, defend the reliability of our manuscripts; except for when comes to the Divine Name.
- Even if these discoveries warrant a reevaluation of one’s theology.
- Philip Comfort’s work New Testament Text and Translation Commentary would serve as an excellent resource in this regard.